I was recently asked by someone (who I knew for all of about 30 minutes prior to him asking) if I had ever been in love. And when I was forced to admit my honest answer, no, it got me thinking.
I have physically been on this earth for 23 years, and in those 23 years I’ve had pretty many life experiences, but this particular person made me realize, I’ve never experienced the feeling of being “in love.” This isn’t a rumination seeking for sympathy, “Oh poor you.” And it isn’t to reflect on some kind of deprivation. My life has been anything but deprived. In fact, this is just the opposite. It is the appreciation of how full of love my life has been.
What this man was asking is if I had ever experienced stereotypical romantic love, the kind of love that makes you reminisce over who said, “I love you” first, the kind of love you hear about from grandparents who have sustained their relationship for over 50 years, the kind of love that makes you move across continents just to be with someone. No, I have never personally been in this kind of love, but just because I’ve never been in love doesn’t mean I haven’t been surrounded by it.
And when I say I’m surrounded by love I’m not referring to seeing friends getting engaged, or sending my parents an anniversary card every year their marriage continues to thrive. I’m referring to the non-stereotypical, unromantic, and yet completely unconditional love that has made my life complete. No, I have not dated someone I could see myself spending the rest of my life with, and no I have never said those three magic words, “I love you,” to a significant other, but I have said them to people I do in fact love, and I think those three words hold just as much meaning whether they are said romantically or not.
I’m sure romantic love is indescribably fantastic, and I’m sure there are others both younger and older than me who have never truly had it, but that doesn’t make their life any less complete than those who have. Do not assume that the absence of romantic love makes the presence of loneliness that much more apparent. I don’t feel empty because I’ve never loved someone romantically, I feel grateful because I have been lucky enough to have loved in so many other ways.
When romantic love has let me down, unromantic love has been there to pick me up. When a friend understands you better than you understand yourself, that’s love. When a parent endlessly supports your passion even when you question it, that’s love. When your sibling consoles your broken heart even if theirs is hurting too, that’s love. My life is full of love, and while it’s certainly not romantic, it’s whole.